Book Review: Flight of a Starling (Lisa Heathfield)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: June 29th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rita and Lo, sisters and best friends, have spent their lives on the wing – flying through the air in their trapeze act, never staying in one place for long. Behind the greasepaint and the glitter, they know that the true magic is the family they travel with.

Until Lo meets a boy. Suddenly, she wants nothing more than to stay still. And as secrets start to tear apart the close-knit circus community, how far will Lo go to keep her feet on the ground?

Review:

I’ve really enjoyed Lisa Heathfield’s last two books – Seed and Paper Butterflies – so I had some pretty high expectations going to this one (no pressure!) Thankfully I enjoyed this one as much as the others. Her lyrical prose is gorgeous and I could eat up her words for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still want more.

Rita and Lo are sisters who perform in a travelling circus. They’re a close-knit family, at home with each other as they travel from place to place. Until Lo learns a secret that shatters her world, and meets at boy who makes her want to stay put. As her life unravels Lo does everything she can to keep things together.

I wasn’t sure about the description at first, as a teen meeting a boy and wanting to change her whole life for him irked me a great deal. It happens a lot in YA and I know when you’re a teen a new romance can feel like everything but I don’t like that whole ‘I must die or be with the one I love’ type plotline.

I felt there was more to this than that though. I didn’t really feel the romance connection with Lo and Dean – he felt a bit muted to me – but I did feel everything that Lo associated with him that made her want to stay with him. After learning an awful secret that could break her whole family apart, Lo feels like Dean can keep things together for her, keep her grounded even if that means staying put with him.

I was a bit annoyed that the secret Lo discovers wasn’t resolved at the end. I wanted her to tell someone, I wanted some kind of explanation or revelation, but there was nothing. I guess that’s truer to how real life goes though: there’s not always an explanation and everything tied up neatly. You just have to get on with things.

As with Heathfield’s other books, the ending packs a real punch. It wasn’t what I was expecting so when things took a turn for the worse it was a real blow. Even though I knew things couldn’t work out happily, I kept wishing some kind of miracle would come along and change things. It was a devastating lesson in what an action at your lowest point can mean for the rest of your life. It hurt most to see Lo’s family dealing with the fallout of what she did and my heart broke for them.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance aspect of the book, I loved the sister relationship and Heathfield’s evocative prose keeps you reading late into the night. Don’t expect a happy ending, but do expect to enjoy the ride.

On a final note, and I said it at the end of my last review too, I really hope there’s a Seed sequel in the works somewhere! 🙂

4

Best Books of 2016

It’s been a busy year for me outside of the blog but I’ve still found time to read, which I’m really pleased about. Although I did end up cutting my Goodreads challenge down from 120 books to 100, I do think the initial target was a bit ambitious considering all that’s gone on! Still, I beat that target and am ending the year on 106 books, which is pretty awesome.

For the end of this rollercoaster of a year, I’m picking my favourite book from each month, which is a pretty tough call! So tough, in fact, that I’ve added a couple of books that deserve an honourable mention each month. These are books that I have read this year but not necessarily been released in 2016.

January

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The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

This is easily one of my favourite modern YA fantasy stories. After winning a copy of the first book in a competition in 2015, I was hooked, and was super excited to be part of the blog tour for this book and to get to read it early. I can’t wait for The Scarecrow Queen to come out next year.

Honourable Mentions: Front Lines by Michael Grant, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

February

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This was an incredible debut with one of my favourite protagonists and a setting that really differed to most of the books I’ve read. I loved the Arabian Nights feel to it and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year.

Honourable Mentions: Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma, Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

March

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

The thing that carried this book was the characters. It’s so rare to see a boy-girl platonic friendship in YA and it was really refreshing to read. It’s also great not to read the same straight, white characters too: this book was really beautiful in its diversity.

Honourable Mentions: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

April 

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Saga by Brian K. Vaughan  Fiona Staples

Easily the best graphic novel I’ve read all year, possibly ever. The Deluxe Edition is beautiful although I hate that I have to wait so long for the next edition. The story, characters and art all weave perfectly together and I just loved this book.

Honouable Mentions: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

May

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Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

This was brutal book that hurt to read but somehow filled me with hope too. I’ll admit, part of me wished it was a Seed sequel but if I can’t have that then this is the next best thing from Lisa Heathfield!

Honourable Mentions: In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Waas

June

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

I’d seen this book around a lot and had it sat on the shelf for a while before I read it. I regret leaving it so long: it said so many things that I was thinking about femnism and mental health and is a book I really wish had been around when I was a teenager.

Honourable Mentions: Blame by Simon Mayo

July

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The Deviants by C. J. Skuse

This is one of those books that just punches you in the gut and leaves you breathless. As a group of friends reconnect, secrets from their past won’t stay buried and will end in tragedy. The ending hurt me. I’d really recommend it.

Honourable Mentions: The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson, Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

August

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What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

After reading the first two books in the Spinster Trilogy earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. As soon as I read the synopsis I knew it was going to be awesome. Lottie’s challenge to call out sexism was inspiring to read and got me thinking about sexism I see every day too.

Honourable Mentions: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by lots of awesome UKYA authors

September

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More of Me by Kathryn Evans

After struggling with reading for a bit, this book got me absolutely hooked. I read it at every opportunity and genuinely struggled to put it down. Unlike anything I’ve read before, I’ve been recommending this to everyone.

Honourable Mentions: Eidolon by Sofi Croft, Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

October 

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

No review for this one as I’ll be publishing it next year, closer to publication. This was a book I heard tons of praise for before I read it, and it certainly delivered. Magical and beautiful and twisting and turning. I loved that I could never tell what was the game and what was real.

Honourable Mentions: The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt, The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

November

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i love this part by Tillie Walden

November was a bit of a quiet reading month for me so while there wasn’t a lot to choose from, this was an easy pick. It’s different to a lot of things I’ve read: not quite graphic novel or short story, more like an art book with a beautifully sad narrative.

Honourable Mentions: The King of Rats by Melinda Salisbury, Horns by Joe Hill

December

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Review coming next year, closer to publication date. I love anything to do with Alice in Wonderland and this really hit the spot. An origin of the Queen of Hearts, it somehow fleshes out this insane, angry character into someone you can actually sympathise with.

Honourable Mentions: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne (no review for either of these yet, check back next year!)

So there you have it. These are some of my favourite books of the year, but they’re only a selection of all the marvelous things I;ve read this year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to me in books! Happy New Year everyone. Hope you all have a wonderful one x

Book Review: Paper Butterflies (Lisa Heathfield)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: June 30th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?

Review:

I loved Lisa Heathfield’s Seed last year, so when I saw people raving on Twitter about her new book I was desperate to get my hands on it. Massive thanks to Egmont Press Office Maggie Eckel for sending me a copy!

Seed was so incredibly I wasn’t really sure how Heathfield would follow it up, but Paper Butterflies is an absolute triumph. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I’m not really a crier at books but this pushed me close!

June suffers horrific abuse at the hands of her step-mother, Kathleen. In front of June’s teachers and father she is all sweetness and caring and really appears to be on June’s side, but when they are alone she tortures her in the most horrendous ways, and even makes her own daughter, Megan, assist her. June finds escape in her new friend, Blister, but it’s not enough to escape for just a few hours. Unable to ask anyone for help, June soon finds herself pushed to breaking point.

The story is split into Before and After, though we’re not sure what event the After refers to. I had an inkling on what would happen and was mostly right (I’m getting pretty psychic at books these days) but it didn’t make it any less shocking and awful. The Before chapters move quickly through the years of June’s life, and we see her turn from a young, scared girl into a tortured young adult.

My heart went out to June completely. Kathleen’s version of abuse is truly awful. It’s not what you might think of when the word abuse is used: it’s not sexual, she doesn’t hit her. A lot of it is psychological and it all combines to break June down and make her feel like she isn’t even human. This isn’t an easy read and I can imagine this level of intensity isn’t for everyone.

There are moments of respite from this, for both June and the reader. June is happiest with Blister and his family, who give her hope and remind her that she is important and special. Heathfield’s beautiful writing also saves the reader from becoming completely depressed: her voice is unique and the descriptions are vivid and elegant. I just want to eat up all her words.

This is a heartbreaking read with just enough hope sprinkled in so I wasn’t reduced to a blubbering mess. Read this, and if you haven’t read Seed yet then go buy that as well. I loved both. I really hope she’s working on a Seed sequel now…

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Top Five… Fathers and Father Figures

 

Since I did a post on my favourite mothers/mother figures a while back, it seemd only fair to do the same with fathers/father figures, and when better to do it than around Father’s Day? I’ve realised a lot more this time are the figure kind ratehr than the actual fatehr kind, but sometimes these are the best.

 

5.

Markus Zusak
Hans was easily my favourite thing about The Book Thief. His quiet solidness and love for Liesel is just inspiring, as are his attempts to do what’s right in the face of so much evil. He’s the kind of dad that you just want to hug you and neer let you go.
4.
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Papa S (Seed)
Lisa Heathfield
Controversial one here! I don’t think he’s a good guy, I don’t like him at all (in fact, he creeps the hell out of me) but Papa S is a one of a kind father figure. When you think about how Pearl feels about him at the beginning of the story, it reminds me of a young child’s all encompassing worship of a parent. 

3.

Sirius Black (The Harry Potter series)
J. K. Rowling
Not only is Sirius Black Harry’s dad’s best friend, he’s Harry’s godfather and a damn fine fatehr figure to Harry (after that whole ‘I think he wants to kill me’ stuff is over, naturally). I always find it so sad when Harry thinks he’s going to be able to live with Sirius and then it’s all snatched from him before it’s begun. 

2.

Mr Benskin (If You Find Me)
Emily Murdoch
His partner Melissa made it into my mothers post, and now Mr Benskin is here as one of my favourite father figures. I didn’t expect him to be as wonderful as he was and he was just what the girls deserved. I loved how much he took to Nessa, even though she wasn’t his own child: it just didn’t matter to him.
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Pearl’s Dad (The Year of the Rat)
Clare Furniss
This relationship just breaks my heart, and I think it’s all the more because he’s not Pearl’s real dad, but sometimes a step dad is as good as, or better. I love that, even though Pearl tries to push him away in her grief, he’s still there for her and is trying to keep everything together for her and Rose (aka the Rat).

 

 

Happy Father’s Day to all real and fictional fatehrs and fatehr figures out there!

 

Soundtrack Saturday: Seed (Lisa Heathfield)

Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover

Last week I chose to make a soundtrack for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

This week I decided to do one for Seed by Lisa Heathfield. I read this a few months ago and thought it was just beautiful (go read it if you haven’t already!) It was fun choosing songs as the book takes you through so many different emotions and I wanted to cover them all.

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Love Is – Meg and Dia

I feel like I’m shadowed by hazy stars above me
And they’re all shining bright for me
I’ve seen days of chaos, winter rains that wouldn’t leave
But I came clean ’cause I believed



Wonderland – Taylor Swift


We found Wonderland
You and I got lost in it
And we pretended it could last forever
We found Wonderland
You and I got lost in it
And life was never worse but never better
In Wonderland

Dandelion – Kacey Musgraves


Sent you dancing on the breeze
And like a stupid little girl
I spent my wishes on a weed
Thinking it could change my world

Dandelion,
A million little wishes float across the sky
But it’s a waste of breath and it’s a waste of time, I know

The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie – The Joy Formidable


Call in the social
Call in the mediation
How else can a shadow
Behind her not follow
Call on the lonely
A plea for you to befriend her
Makes only you feel better
Make only you

Nothing outside will care enough
Nothing outside will care enough
Nothing outside will care enough
Nothing outside of you

Light Me Up – Birdy


Keep my eyes shut
Safe in this trust
You’re all that I need
My senses

Shining on me
I still carry your love
I feel your love

The Motherlode – The Staves


The sun was an altar
Before which he knelt
And raised up the dagger
That hung from his belt
He cursed his delusion
And the sadness he felt
Weeping at what he’d become
Just a fool in the gold of the sun

I’m Not Calling You a Liar – Florence and the Machine


I’m not calling you a liar, just don’t like to me
I’m not calling you a thief, just don’t steal from me
I’m not calling you a ghost, just stop hainting me
And I love you so much, I’m gonna let you kill me

Real World – The All-American Rejects


This can’t be the real world now
I don’t believe it when I can’t see the truth
Welcome to the real world now
The old are carried in only to poison youth
Am I the only one who thinks it’s tragic?
‘Cause I know
This can’t be the real world




Book Review: Seed (Lisa Heathfield)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 352

Release Date: April 16th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Pearl has lived her whole life protected within the small community at Seed, where they worship Nature and idolise their leader, Papa S. When some outsiders arrive, everything changes. Pearl experiences feelings that she never knew existed and begins to realise that there is darkness at the heart of Seed. A darkness from which she must escape, before it’s too late.

Review:

This is a simply stunning debut novel from Lisa Heathfield and I am itching to read the sequel.

I’ve not read a novel about a cult community like this one, but I have watched some films on the subject and read a lot around real life situations (Jonestown was the most recent one I looked up and it was very sad/scary to see how someone can control people like that).

If I were to start off with a criticism, it would probably be that the format for Seed is a little predictable. You know from the beginning that the perfect community they live in is going to slowly unwind, that Papa S is not going to be the merciful and blessed leader he pretends to be, and that someone from outside their community will convince the protagonist that not all is as it seems.

That may be a formula for novels like this (according to others, anyway) but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this at all. I raced through it: the prose is beautiful, full of little phrases and comments that really show Pearl’s sheltered life and how she relates everything to Nature.

I really connected with the characters. Pearl is great and I like that she didn’t sell out her lifestyle straight away: even when evidence is being presented to her, she only starts to doubt gradually, which felt natural as it would take a lot to really convince someone that everything they believe is a lie. I really felt everything she felt: her love for Papa S and Elizabeth, her confusion over Ellis and her complete belief in Nature and Seed.

The book could be quite disturbing in places, but it’s all very subtle and hinted at, rather than being explicit. The idea of Papa S’ Companion creeped me out, especially when it looked like Pearl might be next. The relationship between Kate and Kindred John also made me feel uncomfortable. Everything was enough to give me an idea of what was going on and make me doubt the perfection of Seed, but without making anything too awkward or upsetting.

The pace was fairly slow, which worked perfectly. It gave time to build the world and characters and meant that when the action started, it hit hard and fast and left you reeling.

This is a beautiful first novel and Heathfield’s prose weaves a truly magical and convincing world. The sequel in 2016 cannot come fast enough.

My Verdict:
4

Check out my soundtrack for Seed here